Hagan and Pritchett Dominate, Double Up for Mopar and Dodge at 57th NHRA Winternationals
- Matt Hagan wins 23rd Funny Car event of his career in Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T
- Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T drivers take three of top five spots in Funny Car point standings to start season
- Leah Pritchett wins second national event in Top Fuel, first at hometown track in Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Dragster
- Stock Eliminator and Super Stock drivers claim first Dodge Top Finisher awards by reaching finals and quarterfinals, respectively
February 12, 2017 , Pomona, California – The Mopar-powered machines out of the Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) stable were the undisputed stars of the 57th NHRA Winternationals. Matt Hagan won the Funny Car portion of the event in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T, while Leah Pritchett claimed the Top Fuel crown in her Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Dragster. The win was the 23rd of Hagan’s career, while Pritchett earned her second Top Fuel Wally.
Hagan was the No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car on Saturday, tying both his national elapsed time and top speed records. He then worked his way through the ladder on Sunday, defeating two Mopar Dodge teammates en route to facing Courtney Force in the final. Hagan laid down an elapsed time of 3.875 seconds at 330.07 mph in the left lane to win the title.
All four DSR Funny Cars advanced to the second round, with Hagan moving on to face defending event winner and 2016 champion Ron Capps in the semifinals. Hagan bettered his Mopar teammate after Capps redlit at the starting line. Hagan’s run was not without drama, however, as his car broke loose and he nearly crossed the center line before getting the machine righted. Hagan beat Jeff Diehl in the first round, then won the matchup against teammate Jack Beckman in the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T in round two. Beckman had defeated Cruz Pedregon in the first round. Tommy Johnson Jr. and his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T defeated Alexis DeJoria in the first round before being bested by John Force.
In Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett could not have scripted a better homecoming. A native of the Southern California town of Redlands, Pritchett won her second career national event in Top Fuel in her third career final round. She bested Doug Kalitta from the right lane with a pass of 3.711 seconds at 324.98 mph. Pritchett was also the first female No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel at the Winternationals since the legendary Shirley Muldowney accomplished the feat in 1977.
With 15 cars entered in the Top Fuel class, Pritchett earned a first round bye before topping Steve Torrence in the second round. She then defeated her Mopar and DSR teammate, eight-time champ Tony Schumacher, in the semis before winning the final matchup with Kalitta. Schumacher and his U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster beat Scott Palmer in the first round and Brittany Force in the second before facing Pritchett.
Mopar/Dodge Notes & Quotes
Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar) FCA – Global
“Multiple Nitro wins on the same weekend are an incredible feat. All of us at Mopar congratulate Matt Hagan on the win in Funny Car with his Mopar Dodge Charger R/T and Leah Pritchett on the Top Fuel win at the 57th NHRA Winternationals. We can’t wait to see what the Arizona Nationals has in store for us.”
Matt Hagan, Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car (No. 1 Qualifier)
Rd. 1: (.072 reaction time, 3.885 seconds at 331.77 mph), defeated No. 16 Jeff Diehl (red light)
Rd. 2: (.045/3.882/329.18) defeated No. 8 Jack Beckman (.066/3.893/328.30)
Semis: (.050/4.290/207.50) defeated No. 4 Ron Capps (red light)
Finals: (.054/3.875/330.07 defeated No. 6 Courtney Force (.059/3.901/326.95)
“It’s just a real special race for me. A lot of stuff happened over the offseason with losing my brother and I’m just coming out motivated. My lights have been great, the car is running great. We’ve just got a real powerhouse team right now. I’ve got to say thank you to Don Schumacher. There’s a line of drivers that would sit in that car and take my job tomorrow. But he keeps me in the car and I just try to do a good job for him. We’ve got a great team around us right now. I’m just excited. This is the first race of the year and you chalk it up to, ‘okay, yeah that’s great, but there’s a long season ahead of us.’ We’ve just got to keep some of this momentum going.
“To be driving for Mopar and carrying the banner for so long, I’m sure Pietro (Gorlier) has got a big smile on his face right now. We’ve just to keep that going. Anytime we can put those Forces on the trailer that’s what we need to do. We’re here to win and Don expects us to win.”
Leah Pritchett, Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster (No.1 Qualifier)
Rd. 1: Bye (.082/3.707/325.14)
Rd. 2: (.060/3.707/324.44) defeated No. 8 Steve Torrence (.059/3.755/328.22)
Semis: (.060/3.687/327.43) defeated No. 5 Tony Schumacher (.066/3.750/322.11)
Finals: (.071/3.711/324.98) defeated No. 2 Doug Kalitta (.058/7.630/103.85)
“Every time I turn off onto Fairplex Drive and go up this road I’m in a different car and it kind of represents where I’m at in my life. So today I’m driving here from Chino, a different direction than I’ve ever had, in a [Dodge Challenger SRT] Hellcat because I’m working with Dodge last week and this upcoming week and I get to drive around a Hellcat. In my opinion it doesn’t get any better than that which is a representation of my current situation. It doesn’t get any better than that. I’m looking off at the mountains and I’m like, ‘those are my mountains, these are my streets, that’s my taco stand, this is my house,’ and that’s how I talk to myself.
“You’ve got to have confidence if you’re going to run one of these beasts and confidence is contagious. [Crew chief] Tod Okuhara and [assistant crew chief Joe [Barlam]’s confidence in the car is contagious to me as a driver, and I think that’s how we’re jelling so well.”
Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car – (No. 4 Qualifier)
Rd 1: (.075/3.880/329.10) defeated No. 13 Bob Bode (.100/9.544/67.95)
Rd. 2: (.067/3.898/325.2) defeated No. 12 Del Worsham (.099/6.455/117.75)
Semis: (red light) lost to No. 1 Matt Hagan (.050/4.290/207.50)
“It’s been a long time [since I redlit]. I wasn’t trying to push it. We always discuss at Pomona before the semis and final the disadvantage of being in the left lane because the sun is lower in the sky and there can be a glare. We didn’t have lane choice so we had no say on our lane choice. But that’s not an excuse. I’ve been in that lane for a final round before with the sun right in my face and I never redlit. I thought I saw a flicker of yellow. I have no excuse. I just made a mistake and I’m devastated. I told our crew that I was sorry and they did exactly what was needed to the car.”
Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car (No. 8 Qualifier)
Rd 1: (.072/3.867/330.63) defeated No. 9 Cruz Pedregon (.086/13.004/67.39)
Rd 2: (.066/3.893/328.30 lost to No. 1 Matt Hagan (.045/3.882/329.18)
“I’m not the first one of the DSR Funny Car squad to say the cars we fear the most in the other lane are the other Dodges. We know what parts and aerodynamics they have. I tell you what’s very satisfying out here, this is a team sport. You’ve got 11 guys on a team, all working for a singular goal. But we can also go next door. When I needed another parachute, I went over to our Mopar teammate’s car and they helped us out. And we had to race them the next round. You always say, ‘from burnout to turnout there are no teammates,’ it’s every team for themselves. But it’s nice to know that when the fans are making betting odds on who they think will win a Mopar is always going to be near the top of the heap.”
Tommy Johnson Jr., Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car ( No. 10 Qualifier)
Rd.1: (.060/3.938/323.89) defeated No. 7 Alexis DeJoria (.085/4.148/229.24)
Rd 2: (.036/3.939/324.36) lost to No. 2 John Force (.068/3.884/329.67)
“It looks like the DSR and Force cars are the ones to beat right now. I’m happy to see all of our teams going to the second round. Unfortunately we didn’t make the semis, but for all the adversity we had coming into this race, having to switch cars in testing because of the bent chassis, I’m still pleased with what we did. I’m looking forward to going to Phoenix. We’re close, we’re consistent, we just need to pick up a little bit and I think we will.
Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster (No. 5 Qualifier)
Rd. 1: (.083/3.709/326.08) defeated No. 12 Scott Palmer (.100/3.896/287.96)
Rd. 2: (.045/3.697/325.53) defeated No. 6 Brittany Force (.066/9.544/75.26)
Semis: (.066/3.750/322.11 lost to No. 1 Leah Pritchett (.060/3.687/327.43)
“It’s better than we’ve done here the last two years. We’re leaving here fourth, already picked up four spots on last year’s ending (laughs). That’s not necessarily something to celebrate for this championship-contending U.S. Army team. The car went down the track, the crew chiefs have confidence, the guys are doing a great job, the driver’s focused. We had a good run, Leah made a great run, the two fastest cars at this particular racetrack on this particular weekend are in the final. It’s fitting.I’m looking forward to Phoenix. We’ve had great success there and I can’t wait to get there.”
Mopar/Dodge NHRA Sportsman Spotlight
Like their professional counterparts, Mopar-powered NHRA Sportsman competitors raced deep into rounds at the NHRA Winternationals. Justin Jerome, of Fullerton, California, qualified No. 6 in Stock Eliminator in his 1973 Plymouth Duster on the strength of a 10.952-second run at 0.898 under index. Jerome marched through the early rounds and defeated another Mopar-powered racer, Jon Irving in his 1971 Dodge Demon, to reach the final.
Jerome came up short in the final match, paired against Jerry Emmons. Aiming for his first National event win in Stock, lifelong Mopar fan Jerome finished runner-up after he broke out with a 10.985/119.38 that was .045 over index.
Jerome didn’t leave Pomona empty-handed, as he captured the Dodge Top Finisher award in Stock Eliminator at Pomona. Newly introduced for 2017, the Dodge Top Finisher honor awards $500 to the Stock and Super Stock drivers in a Dodge or Plymouth vehicle who advance the farthest during eliminations at each of the 24 NHRA National events.
John Dourlet of Telluride, Colorado, won the Super Stock Dodge Top Finisher award in a 1970 Plymouth Duster, powered by a small block featuring Mopar Performance aluminum cylinder heads, valve covers, and other components. Droulet advanced to the Super Stock quarterfinals.
Next up on the NHRA national event calendar is a trip to Wild Horse Pass Motrosports Park outside Phoenix for the Arizona Nationals on February 24 – 26. Mopar-powered Leah Pritchett won her first Wally in Top Fuel Dragster during the event last year. She also set the unofficial fastest time in Top Fuel history with a pass of 3.654 seconds at 331.85 mph at the track during Nitro Spring Training in early February. Qualifying and eliminations will be broadcast on FS1.
2017 NHRA Championship — Point Standings After Round 1 of 24
(Season Wins in Parentheses)
NHRA Funny Car
1. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger R/T (1) – 119
2. Courtney Force – 99
3. John Force – 80
4. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger R/T – 77
5. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger R/T – 53
6t. Tommy Johnson Jr. Dodge Charger R/T – 52
6t. J.R. Todd – 52
6t. Del Worsham – 52
9. Robert Hight – 36
10. Alexis DeJoria – 35
NHRA Top Fuel
1. Leah Pritchett, Mopar HEMI (1) – 122
2. Doug Kalitta – 105
3. Antron Brown – 79
4. Tony Schumacher, Mopar HEMI – 70
5. Brittany Force – 57
6. Troy Coughlin Jr. – 54
7. Steve Torrence – 53
8. Terry McMillen – 48
9t. Scott Palmer – 32
9t. Shawn Reed – 32
About Mopar Motorsports
The Mopar brand’s commitment to professional motorsports competition was established in the 1950s when a partnership ignited with drag racing pioneer Don Garlits, resulting in the breaking of numerous speed and performance barriers in HEMI-powered vehicles over the next several decades. In 2016, thanks to Don Schumacher Racing driver Ron Capps, Mopar captured its fourth NHRA Funny Car World Championship in the last six years. As Mopar celebrates 80 years as a brand in 2017, it will focus its NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series efforts on NHRA Funny Car and, with rising star Leah Pritchett, NHRA Top Fuel Dragster. Mopar will also bolster its commitment to NHRA Sportsman racing with new contingency rewards, factory support and at-track technical advice and guidance.
*Photo Credit Auto Imagery/Richard Shute